Leo plans to fly as Hughes and go Greek with Nicole. DiCaprio's Howard Hughes movie gets a greenlight, while Kidman may come aboard his Alexander the Great biopic

By Gary Susman
December 13, 2002 at 05:00 AM EST

Leonardo DiCaprio’s Howard Hughes biopic is finally ready to fly. Variety reports that Miramax and Warner Bros. will team up to distribute ”The Aviator,” which will reteam many of the parties behind ”Gangs of New York,” including DiCaprio, finance partner IEG, and director Martin Scorsese. (See, Scorsese and Miramax co-chief Harvey Weinstein really can get along.) Also producing the $100 million movie will be ”Ali”’s Michael Mann, who turned over the directing reins to Scorsese. Shooting begins in May for a 2004 release.

The screenplay, by ”Gladiator”’s John Logan, covers the young and glamorous period of Hughes’ life, in the 1930s and ’40s, when he was a mogul in both aviation and filmmaking and was dating actresses like Katharine Hepburn and Ava Gardner. The project may beat to the screen a rival Hughes project, written and directed by ”Memento”’s Christopher Nolan, that will star Jim Carrey as the older Hughes, during his reclusive germophobe years.

Also on DiCaprio’s dance card next year is a reunion with ”Romeo + Juliet” director Baz Luhrmann for ”Alexander,” which he chose over Scorsese’s proposed rival Alexander the Great biopic. According to The Hollywood Reporter, another Luhrmann alum, ”Moulin Rouge”’s Nicole Kidman, may join the cast — as Alexander’s mother. At 35, she’s only seven years older than DiCaprio, but she’d age along over the course of the story as her child grows from boy to man.

Twentieth Century Fox, which released ”Moulin Rouge,” was going to join the Lurhmann party and co-produce the film with Universal, but the studio pulled out of the $140 million production yesterday. A Fox spokesmon told the Reporter, ”Our allegiance is to Baz and our long-term relationship with him. However, this deal does not work for us economically, so we have agreed to let him see if he can put it together with other partners.” He can; DreamWorks has already stepped in to partner with Universal on the film.